Akira Yoshida was the name of a comic book writer who worked for Dreamwave, Dark Horse, and Marvel Comics 13 years ago. He was a Japanese writer who in interviews told us that he worked for manga publishers, went to US comic conventions, befriended the likes of Pat Lee, and started working in American comics as a result. He would eventually write a series of high-profile Marvel miniseries — 12 issues of Thor: Son Of Asgard, six issues of X-Men: Age of Apocalypse, five of Elektra: The Hand, five of Wolverine: Soultaker, five of X-Men: Kitty Pryde – Shadow & Flame, five of X-Men/Fantastic Four, and a bunch of one-shots — before, suddenly stopping.
This was surprising — Marvel executives I talked to at the time told me that Yoshida was a rarity. He was someone from non-English speaking country who could write well for an American audience — something Marvel had struggled with in the past when seeking authentic voices.
It was at the beginning of 2006 that I first asked then-Marvel associate editor C.B. Cebulski if he wrote using the pseudonym Akira Yoshida. He had heard the rumour and denied it, telling me that Akira Yoshida was an actual person and that his numerous office visits and convention appearances debunked it. He promised pictures, but none were forthcoming. But there was this story from 2015 from Brian Cronin, asking the very same question:
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Akira Yoshida is a pseudonym.
When I heard this one, I thought it would be easy enough to check out. However, when I found out that some of the editors that he had worked with had never spoken with Akira, I will admit, the absurd suddenly did not seem SO absurd.
Luckily, the other day, editor Mike Marts was able to allay any suspicions. Says Marts,
"You bet–I've had lunch with the guy–very nice guy. He's a very cool guy. When we had lunch he showed me pictures of his immense Godzilla memorabilia collection–I was jealous!Well, there's ONE conspiracy theory down the drains!!!"
Or not. These were the Bill Jemas as Marvel publisher days, full of madness, spot-firings, leaks, and conspiracies — such a thing didn't seem inconceivable at all. Plenty of other comic folk knew of Akira, but when I asked, none of them had actually met him. I contacted some people who were mentioned as having worked with Akira and who received pitches, but while they denied receiving any such, didn't want to be named or referenced back then. And then I spoke to Marvel executives, who told me simply that they had met him in the offices, as C.B. alluded to. And then there were the people who swore blind they had met him. Mike Marts confirmed that he definitely had lunch with him.
Why was this an issue? Well, Marvel Comics at the time had made it policy not to allow Marvel staffers to write or draw comic books — or at least, if approved, not to get paid over their salary for doing so. Previous to Joe Quesada being made editor-in-chief, editors used to write comics for other editor's departments, often reciprocated, and it was seen as a corrupt practice. If C.B. Cebulski was getting other editors to hire him as a writer, he had an advantage over others. And that also meant that he may be lying to his employer — or that his employer was making an exception.
But the story died. I couldn't get enough to back it up in a way that satisfied me. It always stayed on the back burner, however.
Then an ex-Marvel editor Gregg Scheigel ran a podcast with a not-that-heavily disguised version of the story using West Wing character names, C.B. Cebulski becoming C.J. Cregg. I was in there, too.
So 10 years after I originally looked into it, I ran the story — along with denials from those involved. Again, from Cebulski, and again from other execs.
Then this week, as Cebulski was flying in from China to take up the position of Editor-In-Chief at Marvel Comics, Image Comics Branding Manager David Brothers tweeted out a challenge to comics journalists to ask why Marvel Comics new EIC "chose to use the pen name Akira Yoshida in the early 2000s to write a bunch of Japanese-y books for them."
That lit a social media fire. While no more evidence was presented, it was enough for people to look back at Akira Yoshida's work and find plenty of other problems. It may not have been as much of an issue at the time, but Akira Yoshida — presented as a Japanese writer — wrote about Japan and created Japanese characters, locations, and themes that, if it had been Cebulski, would be problematic. That comes with allegations of appropriation, yellowface, and playing up an authenticity that wasn't there.
He was hired by some to provide an authentic Japanese voice. And as much of a massive fan of Japanese culture as Cebulski was, with family in Japan and living in Japan on and off since he was 20 years old, and who began his professional comics life editing manga — he just wasn't that.
I started pressing again, and this time the whole thing came crashing down. Because it seems that Marvel had worked it out themselves back when I ran the podcast story. Cebulski confessed to Marvel execs what he had done. He could have been fired, but he pled his case internally to the highest authority at the company. The story was that back then, he had been planning to leave Marvel, but set up a writing career first — and Akira Yoshida was a fiction he created to get his first writing gig on Darkstalkers for Dreamwave and then Conan for Dark Horse. And it was from that gig that his fictional pseudonym was approached by another Marvel editor, quite unaware that Cebulski was Akira, and Cebulski found himself hired by his own company. And kept the lie going.
And as to the Akira Yoshida that Marvel people had met, including his bosses, that was a Japanese translator who had visited the offices – and yes, who had had lunch with Mike Marts – and who was mistakenly identified as Akira Yoshida. So everyone remembered having met him – even though they never did.
Eventually, Cebulski "killed" Akira off, resigned his position from Marvel, and was rehired as a Talent Manager with a new contract that allowed him to write on a freelance basis under his own name, writing Marvel titles as well as creator-owned works for Image Comics. But if he admitted the truth about Yoshida, he knows that would have killed his Marvel career dead. And so the lie stayed, even as Yoshida disappeared.
Earlier this year, as the possibility of him becoming a new Editor-In-Chief of Marvel was mooted, I understand that he owned up — to much anger — internally at the publisher. But a deal was done. There was forgiveness, and also sanction. But C.B. Cebulski was made Editor-In-Chief of Marvel Comics, with a greater international brief than his predecessor.
Today is his first day at EIC. What a way to start.
I reached out to C.B. Cebulski yesterday. He replied to me today to confirm that he was indeed the writer Akira Yoshida. He tells me:
"I stopped writing under the pseudonym Akira Yoshida after about a year. It wasn't transparent, but it taught me a lot about writing, communication and pressure. I was young and naïve and had a lot to learn back then. But this is all old news that has been dealt with, and now as Marvel's new Editor-in-Chief, I'm turning a new page and am excited to start sharing all my Marvel experiences with up and coming talent around the globe."
Genuine ones, this time.